Posts Tagged ‘ballistic missiles’

Iran move won’t weaken US hand with NKorea: Tillerson — “Diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”

October 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied President Trump’s un-diplomatic style is undermining his efforts to rein in North Korea

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Sunday denied that Donald Trump’s threat to tear up the Iran nuclear deal had weakened America’s chance of reining in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile drive through diplomacy.

By calling into question the landmark deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, worried allies fear the US president has sent a message to Pyongyang that America’s word cannot be trusted.

In a virulent speech Friday, Trump refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal, kicking its fate to Congress, which he told to address its “many serious flaws.”

“I think what North Korea should take away from this decision is that the United States will expect a very demanding agreement with North Korea,” Tillerson said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“One that is very binding and achieves the objectives not just of the United States but the policy objectives of China and other neighbors in the region, a denuclearized Korean peninsula.”

“If we achieve that, there will be nothing to walk away from because the objective will be achieved.”

The US top diplomat’s efforts to rein in North Korea have been overshadowed by Trump’s un-diplomatic style and his streams of taunting tweets stirring international tensions.

Earlier this month, as Tillerson flew home from meeting with top Chinese officials, Trump tweeted that his envoy was “wasting his time” in trying to probe North Korea’s willingness to talk.

But Tillerson pushed back at claims that Trump has undermined his efforts, after outspoken Republican senator and Trump critic Bob Corker said the president was seeking to “castrate” his top diplomat.

“No, sir. He has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts,” Tillerson said. “Those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”

“The president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically,” he added. “He’s not seeking to go to war.”

The Secretary of State was forced this month to deny claims of a serious rift with Trump, after it was reported he had called the president a “moron.”

Tillerson has refused to outright deny the report, which he once more dismissed on CNN as “petty stuff.”

But he had a quick comeback at the ready when asked about Corker’s claim that Trump was trying to “castrate” him on the world stage: “I checked. I’m fully intact.”

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Saudi View of Donald Trump’s New Policy on Iran “Identical To That of Israel”

October 15, 2017
BY BEN LYNFIELD
 OCTOBER 15, 2017 16:34

King Salman praised Trump in a phone call for his “firm strategy” against Iran.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi Emba

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi Embassy in London, Britain. (photo credit:REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY)

Saudi Arabia’s reaction to US President Donald Trump’s more confrontational posture toward Tehran was strikingly similar to Israel’s, highlighting the two countries’ common desire for a more determined American effort to counter Iranian influence in the region.

On Saturday, King Salman praised Trump in a phone call for his “firm strategy” against “Iranian aggression and its support for terrorism in the region,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The king praised the Trump administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats and the need for concerted efforts on terrorism and extremism and its primary sponsor, Iran,” the Agency added.

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IRGC

The report followed an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Friday, also praising Trump for the same reasons, saying the US president “has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.”

Since Trump’s election, the Saudis had been hoping for a tougher American stand on Tehran, which they view as a great and growing threat to their interests.

In May, the Saudis gathered Islamic leaders for a summit with Trump in Riyadh that highlighted Iran as the epicenter of subversion and terrorism in the region. Trump’s decertification of the nuclear deal, his sanctioning of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and his vow to stand against Iran’s fueling of “conflict, terror and turmoil” are seen by the Saudis as initial crystallization of the more assertive — some would say, aggressive, approach they had hoped for.

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The Trump speech was music to the ears of Abdul-Rahman Rashed, former editor-in-chief of the London-based, Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He echoed Netanyahu’s choice of the word “courageous” to describe Trump’s approach.

“It’s a correct beginning for regional corrections or at least stopping the creeping of Iran,” he wrote of the speech in Asharq al-Awsat Saturday.

“The project of Iran is expansive and it wants to have hegemony over the region. It is not only building its nuclear capability for defensive purposes,” Rashed wrote.

“Iran is waging destructive military wars every day in the region. All of them are expansionist activities,” he added.

In the view of Gabriel Ben-Dor, a Middle East specialist at Haifa University, “what the Saudis want from the US is what we Israelis want: to lean hard on Iran, to make sure they don’t cheat and find ways to bypass the nuclear agreement to develop nuclear weapons — to not allow them to develop long range ballistic missiles unhindered and to confront them on their support of terror and subversion.”

“The Saudis feel that Trump’s assertive speech is a signal that the US is prepared to do something on these three things critical to the Saudi perception of national security. Their view is quite identical to what we Israelis feel about things on the agenda,” Ben-Dor said.

The Saudis are worried about Iranian subversion across the region: in Yemen, where Riyadh has gotten bogged down in its war with Iranian-backed Houthi forces; in Syria, where growing Iranian influence threatens Saudi allies; and in Bahrain, where there are outbreaks of unrest among the Shiite majority.

“These are immediate threats. The nuclear project and long range missiles are not immediate but they are very paramount in the Saudis’ thinking about their future,” Ben-Dor said.

In Ben-Dor’s view, the Saudis do not want to see the US pull out of the nuclear deal entirely. “They don’t see an alternative. If the agreement collapses now without an alternative agreement and without an international coalition subscribing to an agreed upon policy than Iran gets a free hand to continue and develop its own nuclear ambitions more forcefully and without international inspection.”

Rather than it collapsing, the Saudis want the agreement “to have more teeth, a tougher inspection regime and to expand it to include Iran’s missile program.”

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are more important than the nuclear deal — “The Guards are the defender of the nation.”

October 15, 2017

By Raghida Dergham

When the administration of former President Barack Obama claimed it was helpless in relation to Iran’s separation of nuclear negotiations from its regional ambitions, it omitted to say that it had had allowed Iran’s Republican Guards to intervene in Syria and Iran publicly.

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On this issue, Washington was turning a blind eye to the flouting of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit Iran from exporting men and material outside its borders and using and backing proxy militias.

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The Obama administration had voluntarily agreed to ignore these resolutions otherwise necessary to rein in the IRGC, albeit it used as a pretext the need to conclude and safeguard the nuclear deal for the sake of US national interests at any cost in the region. As the sanctions on Iran were lifted, the IRGC benefits from the influx of billions of dollars unfrozen by Washington as part of the nuclear deal. For this reason, claiming that Iran’s incursions in Iraq and Syria had nothing to do with the nuclear deal is a lie, because the Obama administration knew full well what it was doing. The former president not only became willfully blind to the massacres enabled by the IRGC to keep Bashar Assad in power, the same Assad that Obama had said must step down, but his administration also financed in a de-facto manner the activities of the cash-strapped Iranians in the Arab region.

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Today, it is important to remind those who mourn Obama’s wisdom compared to Trump’s recklessness of this history with regard to the fate of the nuclear deal. The rise of the IRGC and its expansion in the Arab region, as well as its growing influence within Iran at the expense of moderates, all happened because the Obama administration allowed it to happen. And let no one claim this was accidental or a byproduct of policy; rather, it was a historic shift in the Middle East engineered by a calculated American decision. So what is happening now as the Trump administration is about to de-certify the nuclear deal, amid reports the administration and the Congress could designate the IRGC a terrorist organization?

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Iranian reactions sought to preempt any serious move by the US president and Congress to designate the IRGC quickly and firmly, issuing threats and warnings. The so-called moderate camp, to out-bid its opponents, rushed to the defense of the IRGC, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declaring following his meeting with the IRGC head General Mohammad Ali Jafari: “We have repeatedly declared that the IRGC is an honor for our country and a guarantor of the defense of our homeland and the continuation of the revolution that defends the borders of our country. If US officials commit this strategic mistake, the Islamic Republic of Iran will surely reciprocate. We have designed a number of actions that will be announced at the right time.”

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Jafari said: “Diplomatic expression is different from defense forces’ expression, but its content and orientation are the same. Trump must be sure that we [the IRGC] are united with the Foreign Ministry and our government.”

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“The Guards are the defender of the nation,” government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said. “If the US wants to put the Guards on the terrorist list, it puts itself in the camp of terrorists. Any country that wants to have such a position about the Guards will share this view with the Daesh terrorists.”

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The wrath in Iran’s official corridors indicates that Tehran is deeply concerned by Washington’s moves against the IRGC, whether to slap additional sanctions or designate it a terror group, as this could lead to a serious destabilization of the regime’s structure in Tehran and the regimes that collaborate with the IRGC on their territories.

The IRGC is the backbone of the regime and the revolution, and Iran may even be prepared to sacrifice its ballistic missile program to protect the Guards from Donald Trump and the US Congress.

Raghida Dergham

The Iranian establishment is hoping that the threats issued by the Trump administration will not be serious, and would be thwarted by Tehran’s co-signatories in the nuclear deal led by the EU’s Federica Mogherini and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to Russia and China naturally. However, the Iranians are deeply concerned especially that Trump intends to rely in his new Iran strategy on Congress, which has always looked for ways to trim the wings of the Islamic Republic, especially with regard to its sponsorship of terrorism as well as regional expansionism.

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In truth, the IRGC is much more valuable for Tehran than the nuclear deal. It is the backbone of the regime and the revolution, and any measures against it will deeply impact Iran’s foreign and domestic policies. For this reason, Tehran wants to link its stringent defense of the IRGC against America’s measures and the nuclear deal, to protect both.

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Tehran may agree to including its ballistic missile program in the nuclear deal in return for guarantees regarding the IRGC and protecting it from any real measures or designations. It understands the seriousness of the US president’s de-certification of its compliance with the nuclear deal, not because it believes this will lead to the undoing of the deal – which is not on the table at present – but because de-certification means that Trump is throwing the ball into Congress’s court, which carries dangerous implications for the Islamic Republic.

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Trump’s de-certification of the nuclear deal means that he does not want to confirm Iran’s compliance, as he is required to do every 90 days, in view of his criticisms of the substance of the deal which believes is the “worst possible.” Yet he is not about to walk away from it, although as president, it is his right to declare the deal is not in the US national interest regardless of Tehran’s compliance.
Rather, Trump wants to re-open negotiations on Tehran’s missile program, although he has not yet proposed expanding them to include Iran’s regional expansionism. Perhaps that was implicitly included in his tackling of the IRGC.

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Both the action against the IRGC and the de-certification of the deal carry complex questions, and declaring them without actual and serious measures could discredit both Trump and Congress.
Meanwhile, the media’s keenness to defend the nuclear deal is interesting, because in one layer of it, it reflects the media’s preparedness to overlook Iran’s expansionism in the Arab region via the IRGC and even defend the latter against terror designation. There is a kind of fatalist narrative in the US liberal media that there is no other option but to cave in to Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, with the claim that standing up to the former would reinforce the latter’s intransigence and distrust of the US. In reality, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un must remember what the US does to those who surrender their nuclear arms, such as Col. Qaddafi, and to those who surrender their programs to weapons inspectors, such as Saddam Hussein.

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The liberal media in the US has decided that North Korea and Iran’s nuclear capabilities are irreversible, and effectively dismiss the non-proliferation principle, with dangerous implications.
The US media has a right to battle Trump and warn against his “recklessness,” “ignorance” and “irrationality,” as they accuse him. However, it has no right to ignore the terrifying consequences of policies that it had once consented to before waking up to criticize now, from George W. Bush’s Iraq war, to his and Obama’s enablement of Iran in Iraq, and then in Syria, where the Obama administration once claimed to support the moderate rebellion.

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• Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is the founder and executive chairman of Beirut Institute. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum. Twitter: @RaghidaDergham

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1177706

Iran to Trump: Our ballistic missile program will grow, no matter what

October 14, 2017

By Bob Fredericks
New York Post

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Hassan Rouhani. EPA

Iran will remain committed to a multinational nuclear deal as long as it serves the country’s national interests — and its ballistic missile program will expand despite pressure from the US, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday.

Responding to President Trump’s speech earlier Friday in which he said he would not continue to certify the multinational agreement, Rouhani said in a live television address that it was full of “insults and fake accusations” against Iran, Reuters reported.

“The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure … Iran and the deal are stronger than ever … Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps will continue its fight against regional terrorists,” Rouhani said.

He added that Trump’s decision to decertify the deal would isolate the US as other signatories of the accord remained committed to it. The deal was not renegotiable, he said.

EU rejects Donald Trump’s attempt to dump Iran nuclear deal

October 14, 2017

The EU’s top diplomat says the US can’t terminate the Iran nuclear agreement because it’s not a “bilateral deal.” European leaders acknowledge Iran poses many problems, but insist they should be handled separately.

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European diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic, along with the Iran nuclear deal’s other signatories and many of the US president’s own advisers, have failed to convince Donald Trump not to pick apart the agreement.

In Brussels, European Union officials are clearly exasperated with the US leader’s insistence on mixing a myriad of complaints about Iranian behavior with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the six-party accord signed in 2015 which limits Tehran’s ability to enrich uranium to a weapons-grade level.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini did not mince words Friday when lambasting Trump’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance, which she says has been full, and to ask the US Congress to examine ways to add sanctions on Tehran. Mogherini was officially the deal’s mediator when it was concluded in 2015.

“This deal is not a bilateral agreement, this is not an international treaty,” but part of a UN Security Council Resolution, she said tersely after the announcement, “so it is clearly not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate an agreement of this sort.”

“The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one,” she added.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later echoed Mogherini in a live televised address. “No president can revoke an international deal. … Iran will continue to honor its commitments under the deal,” Rouhani said. He also warned that “if one day our interests are not served, we will not hesitate even one moment and will respond.”

Germany, France and UK statement

Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May said in a joint statement: “We encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”

“We stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address these issues in close cooperation with the US and all relevant partners,” they said. ”We look to Iran to engage in constructive dialogue to stop de-stabilising actions and work towards negotiated solutions.”

No deal-breaker

Mogherini and other European officials insist they will continue to observe the agreement, reminding Iran it must do the same.

A high-level EU official speaking on background ahead of the announcement said the bloc agrees with Trump about the dangers of ballistic missiles, terrorism, Iranian-backed militias and what they see as other bad behavior, and believes they should be dealt with, but separately from the nuclear deal.

Iran's Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini give a joint press conference (Getty Images/AFP/A. Kenare)Mogherini (left) says Iran is fulfilling its obligations under the nuclear deal she helped broker

At least with the current nuclear agreement, Tehran wouldn’t have the warheads for those missiles, the official pointed out.

Now lobbying attention turns to Congress, where European outreach efforts continue, according to the EU official.

“All the other issues of concern that may come up will not be better served if we undo the agreement,” the official explained, “because the agreement takes away a very dangerous risk, not only the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region, but also of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, which is something we are now unfortunately seeing in North Korea.”

Lack of accord between US and EU 

European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Ellie Geranmayeh says this move “has really been seen in Europe as a terrible betrayal of European allies.” While Europeans are also very concerned about missile proliferation and regional meddling, they want to keep open the channel of diplomatic initiatives. “If this deal starts to unravel,” she told DW, “it’s more likely than not to provoke activities from Iran inside the region that add to the fragility of that region.”

Erik Brattberg, who heads the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe program, says that although the EU’s reaction is obviously one of disappointment, the situation doesn’t need to be seen as “catastrophic.”

“While uncertainty about US intentions and its commitment to the JCPOA seem unavoidable in the short term,” Brattberg said, “it is at least preferable to a [complete] unilateral US withdrawal from the agreement from a European perspective.”

Sanctions aimed at Tehran may also sting EU

But things will get worse for European companies that have resumed doing business with Iran if Trump’s impulses are fulfilled. “I think there is a very good chance that US sanctions will be reapplied against Tehran,” predicts Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. Republicans will strongly support renewing the sanctions, he said, and some Democrats may join them.

“European companies should be nervous,” Gardiner told DW. “They are playing with fire by investing in Iran, and could be hit hard by US sanctions. If they wish to do business with the US they would have to comply with American sanctions if they are imposed.”

Geranmayeh warns Gardiner may be right. “My message to the Europeans is, now that Trump has decertified, you better start planning on that contingency much more vigorously than before,” she said, “whether it’s because of a review process by Congress or because, come January, the president decides that he’s not going to renew these waivers.”

 just decertified  -here is what Europe should do:start planning contingency to salvage http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_what_if_trump_decertifies_the_iran_deal 

Photo published for What if Trump decertifies the Iran deal?

What if Trump decertifies the Iran deal?

European countries must coordinate a vigorous response to prevent Trump from derailing the nuclear accord.

ecfr.eu

With EU foreign ministers meeting Monday to discuss their strategy, she says even if the EU is united behind a position of continuing the agreement, they’d better start coordinating on how far they are willing to go to salvage the deal and how to safeguard their companies from the White House if all else fails.

Shada Islam, director of policy at Friends of Europe, could only shake her head about the developments. “This was a hard-fought deal,” she told DW, adding that its abolishment would be dangerous for the world. “This will empower all those in Iran who don’t want the nuclear agreement – is that what we want?”

Includes videos:

http://www.dw.com/en/eu-rejects-donald-trumps-attempt-to-dump-iran-nuclear-deal-saying-it-works/a-40948190

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Trump strikes blow at Iran nuclear deal in major U.S. policy shift

October 14, 2017

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it.

Trump announced the major shift in U.S. policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

He accused Iran of “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon, in effect throwing the fate of the deal to Congress.

He singled out Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for sanctions and delivered a blistering critique of Tehran, which he accused of destabilizing actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said.

Trump’s hardline remarks drew praise from Israel, Iran’s arch-foe, but was criticized by European allies.

The move by Trump was part of his “America First” approach to international agreements which has led him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

His Iran strategy angered Tehran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union – some of which have benefited economically from renewed trade with Iran.

Responding to Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday on television that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations.

“The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure,” he said. “Iran and the deal are stronger than ever.”

European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines U.S. credibility abroad, especially as international inspectors say Iran is in compliance with the accord.

The chief of the U.N. atomic watchdog reiterated that Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime.”

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said, referring to the deal by its formal name.

U.S. Democrats expressed skepticism at Trump’s decision. Senator Ben Cardin said: “At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the president has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

CONGRESS DECIDES

While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, he gave the U.S. Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the terms of the nuclear deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker was working on amending the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act law to include “trigger points” that if crossed by Iran would automatically reimpose U.S. sanctions.

Slideshow (10 Images)

The trigger points would address strengthening nuclear inspections, Iran’s ballistic missile program and eliminate the deal’s “sunset clauses” under which some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over time.

Trump directed U.S. intelligence agencies to probe whether Iran might be working with North Korea on its weapons programs.

The president, who took office in January, had reluctantly certified the agreement twice before but has repeatedly blasted it as “the worst deal ever.” It was negotiated under his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

Trump warned that if “we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.”

“We’ll see what happens over the next short period of time and I can do that instantaneously,” he told reporters when asked why he did not choose to scrap the deal now.

The Trump administration designated the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps under an executive order targeting terrorists. The administration stopped short of labeling the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization, a list maintained by the State Department.

The Revolutionary Guard is the single most dominant player in Iran’s security, political, and economic systems and wields enormous influence in Iran’s domestic and foreign policies.

It had already previously been sanctioned by the United States under other authorities, and the immediate impact of Friday’s measure is likely to be symbolic.

The U.S. military said on Friday it was identifying new areas where it could work with allies to put pressure on Iran in support of Trump’s new strategy and was reviewing the positioning of U.S. forces.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said no changes in force posture had been made yet, and Iran had not responded to Trump’s announcement with any provocative acts so far.

Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; Additional reporting by James Oliphant, Phil Stewart, Makini Brice, Patricia Zengerle, Jonathan Landay, Justin Mitchell, Tim Ahmann and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, John Irish in Paris, Parisa Hafezi in Ankara, Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Shadia Nasrallah in Vienna; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Alistair Bell and James Dalgleish

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President Trump Refuses to Certify Iran Nuclear Deal; Asks Congress For Action — Revolutionary Guard named as a terror ​organization

October 14, 2017

President says he won’t certify that ‘rogue regime’ in Tehran is complying with nuclear agreement

Iranians walk past medium-range ballistic missiles displayed next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in September.
Iranians walk past medium-range ballistic missiles displayed next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in September. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump took aim Friday at the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, vowing to end U.S. participation in the landmark deal unless Congress and U.S. allies are able to deliver on punitive measures targeting Tehran’s missile program, its support for regional militant groups, and any future nuclear activities.

As a first step, Mr. Trump refused to certify to Congress under a U.S. law that Iran was complying with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, charging that the country had violated the terms of the deal. Going further, Mr. Trump said if efforts to address his concerns fall short, he would terminate the accord.

“It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time,” he said.

As U.S. president, Mr. Trump has wide, long-term latitude over the fate of the agreement, but lacks the ability under the accord’s complicated terms to immediately abolish it.

Mr. Trump, reiterating his fierce opposition to the terms of the deal, announced his decision after issuing a lengthy denunciation of what he called a “rogue regime” run by radicals.

“Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime,” Mr. Trump said in a speech at the White House, adding it has “spread death, destruction and chaos all around the globe.”

Trump Denounces Iran as a ‘Rogue Regime’
President Donald Trump announced plans on Friday to decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal, reinforcing his commitment to cancel the agreement if congress doesn’t act on whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran. Photo: Getty Images

Detailing grievances against Iran going back to 1979, the year of the country’s Islamic revolution, Mr. Trump broadly condemned the country’s rulers.

“Iranian aggression continues to this day,” he said. “The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

In his threat, the president applied a well-practiced tactic of pressing for changes in pre-existing arrangements and abandoning them if he doesn’t succeed. He has taken a similar approach to the Paris climate accord and the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as to domestic programs such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Mr. Trump’s move on Friday touches off high-pressure negotiations in Washington and European capitals over the future of the accord, and his action drew intensive world-wide attention. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani denounced Mr. Trump’s comments in a televised speech, saying: “The Iranian people will not bend down before a dictator.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mr. Trump’s move to deny Iran’s compliance with the deal courageous, saying the U.S. leader had “boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime.” ​

Saudi Arabia, a leading Sunni Muslim power and Shiite-majority Iran’s main rival in the Middle East, also threw its support behind Mr. Trump’s stance.

European officials pushed back, however, on his threat to scuttle the deal if his terms can’t be satisfied.

“It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country and it is not up to any single country to terminate,” the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told reporters. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose countries are parties to the accord, said in a joint statement they remained committed to the agreement “and its full implementation by all sides.”

China, another party to the deal, has also signaled its desire to keep it intact, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying Tuesday it was in the interest of all sides to continue its implementation.

A law passed in 2015 to give Congress oversight of the nuclear deal requires the president to tell Congress every 90 days whether Iran is complying. If the president doesn’t do so, it triggers a 60-day process for lawmakers to weigh whether to reimpose sanctions under expedited consideration.

However, Mr. Trump didn’t call on Congress to reimpose sanctions immediately, and instead said he supported efforts of Republicans in Congress to craft legislation that would amend the 2015 U.S. oversight bill to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it violates enhanced and existing restrictions on its nuclear program.

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been working with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on amending the oversight law, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, known in Washington as INARA. Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) have also been involved in crafting the amended legislation.

Mr. Corker, despite a public feud with Mr. Trump that has spilled into Twitter posts, said on Friday that he expects to introduce the legislation in the next week or two.

What Is the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal?
Iran reached a historic agreement with major world powers over its nuclear program in 2015. Under the deal, what did Iran give up and how is it benefiting? WSJ’s Niki Blasina explains.

Mr. Trump highlighted concerns with “sunset clauses” in the nuclear deal that allow nuclear restrictions to expire. Mr. Tillerson, briefing reporters, said the U.S. envisions a “successor deal” to address those concerns.

A current draft of the bill also would change the frequency of presidential certification required from every quarter to twice a year.

The legislative process is likely to require time and painstaking negotiations. Mr. Tillerson said he hoped Congress would amend the legislation before Mr. Trump next faces another certification deadline in January, but admitted the process won’t be a “slam dunk.”

Mr. Rubio said he backed Mr. Trump’s move to withhold support for the deal and said he thought the U.S. should leave the accord and reimpose sanctions. “I have serious doubts about whether it is even possible to fix such a dangerously flawed agreement,” he said.

However, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he disagreed with Mr. Trump’s “reckless political decision and his subsequent threat to Congress.” Mr. Cardin voted against the deal in 2015 but said Friday he backed staying in it and rigorously enforcing it.

Mr. Corker’s measure would contain what Mr. Tillerson called “trigger points” that would reimpose sanctions, for example, if Iran violates restrictions spelled out in the legislation. The legislation would set stricter limits than those contained in the nuclear accord. Mr. Corker’s office said the bill would be “effectively ridding the JCPOA of its sunset provisions as they apply to U.S. sanctions.” It will also bolster the verification powers of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog and limiting Iran’s centrifuge program.

As it works to toughen the U.S. law, the administration also will seek talks with European partners to address key concerns, Mr. Tillerson said.

Asked if the EU would be interested in negotiating a “successor” agreement, Ms. Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said “the agreement is working, has been implemented, continues to be implemented…I would expect all sides to stick to it.”

European officials and former U.S. officials involved in negotiating the deal are concerned that by reimposing sanctions for reasons not covered by the original nuclear deal, the U.S. stands to be in breach of the international agreement, setting in motion a sequence of events that could lead to the deal’s collapse.

Mr. Trump has the power to unilaterally end U.S. participation in the deal by halting the U.S. sanctions relief that Iran was promised under the accord. Doing so, however, wouldn’t necessarily abolish the agreement, as other countries and Iran could choose to continue to follow it.

Reinstating U.S. sanctions also could lead Iran to halt its commitments under the deal if Tehran doesn’t receive the economic relief it expected. Iran’s withdrawal and return to now-banned nuclear activities would effectively nullify the agreement.

Mr. Trump has other options under the complex deal. He could say that Iran has committed a material breach of the terms and initiate a dispute resolution process ​that could lead to a vote in the U.N. Security Council. In such a vote, the U.S.’s veto could result in the resumption of broad, punitive international sanctions. However, the appearances of a U.S. move to force a vote that way would be challenging, former officials involved in the negotiations said.

Among other steps outlined by Mr. Trump, the U.S. will target the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite military branch, which Mr. Trump said has hijacked large portions of Iran’s economy.

The IRGC won’t be classified formally as a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. laws that would expose it to more punitive action, officials said. Instead, the Treasury Department announced on Friday that it is designating the group under as a terror ​organization under an executive order that was created after Sept. 11, 2001 to target terrorist financing.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said that even though large parts of the IRGC has already been sanctioned under past executive orders, the latest designation could inflict economic damage.

“This is a major course correction” by Washington, Mr. Ben Taleblu said. Besides expanding the sanctions to the entire IRGC, the administration is also issuing the order under a terrorism designation, which ratchets up the stigma for firms and individuals thinking about doing business with the group or any of its affiliates.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 14, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Threatens to End Iran Deal.’

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China urges US to ‘preserve’ Iran nuclear deal

October 13, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) attends a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 30, 2017

BEIJING (AFP) – China on Friday called on the United States to maintain its commitment to the Iranian nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump is expected to declare no longer in America’s interest.”We believe this deal is important to ensuring the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and regional peace and stability. We hope all parties can continue to preserve and implement this deal,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular press briefing.

China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, discussed the Iranian nuclear issue with US counterpart Rex Tillerson in a phone call on Thursday to prepare for Trump’s November visit to Beijing, Hua said.

The agreement was signed between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US — at talks coordinated by the European Union.

While the deal stalled Iran’s nuclear programme and thawed relations between Tehran and its “Great Satan”, opponents say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence in the Middle East.

US officials say Trump will not kill the international accord outright, instead “decertifying” the agreement and leaving US lawmakers to decide its fate.

UN nuclear inspectors say Iran is meeting the technical requirements of its side of the bargain, dramatically curtailing its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at his US counterpart saying he was opposing “the whole world” by trying to abandon the agreement.

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Germany’s Sigmar Gabriel warns Donald Trump: revoking Iran deal could push EU to Russia and China

October 13, 2017

Germany’s top diplomat Sigmar Gabriel has warned that Donald Trump’s potential move to “de-certify” Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal could have a profound effect on the international landscape.

USA Besuch Bundesaußenminister Gabriel PK in Washington DC (Imago/photothek/I. Kjer)

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday said that any move by US President Donald Trump’s administration to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal would drive a wedge between Europe and the US.

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel told Germany’s RND newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

Despite countless warnings from global leaders and even from within his own administration, Trump is expected on Friday to unveil a new strategy on confronting Iran, which would include “de-certifying” Iran’s compliance to the nuclear accord.  The deal, which was reached in 2015 between Iran and international powers, saw international sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program lifted in exchange for Tehran dismantling its nuclear program.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran has been adhering to the restrictions imposed by the accord. Trump, however, has decried Iran for violating “the spirit” of the deal, first by backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and then by test firing its newly-developed non-nuclear ballistic missiles.

“The big drama is that the Iran agreement could turn out to be a pawn in American domestic politics,” Gabriel said. Washington wants the agreement to ensure that Iran ceases to fuel conflicts such as in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. But Gabriel said this could not be a condition for Iran to remain free of nuclear weapons.

Trump has until Sunday to inform Congress whether he believes Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement. Should Trump de-certify Tehran’s compliance, Congress will have to decide within 60 days what new sanctions to impose on Iran.

A ‘hot crisis’ region

Several EU and US officials have warned that Trump’s refusal to certify the deal could leave the US diplomatically isolated. Germany has historically close economic and business ties with Russia, although those have soured in recent years following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Berlin, and Gabriel in particular, have also been working to boost relations with China.

Read more: Berlin sees opportunity to strengthen trade ties with China

“A denunciation of the Iran agreement would turn the Middle East into a hot crisis region,” Gabriel warned, adding that if Iran were to resume developing nuclear weapons, then “the immediate danger of a new war” would return, with Israel potentially involved.

“It would be a devastating signal for nuclear disarmament,” Gabriel said. “Some states might see the failure of the Iran agreement as a signal to arm themselves with nuclear weapons as soon as possible.”

Gabriel’s potential successor weighs in

Gabriel is expected to stand down from his post in the coming months, after his Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced that it would go into opposition after finishing second behind Chancellor Angela Merkel Christian Democrats in last month’s federal election.

One of the candidates widely tipped to succeed him as top diplomat, Green party leader Cem Özdemir, also warned on Twitter against a nuclear arms race and said that Saudi Arabia could even become a new nuclear power in the region.

dm/bk (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

http://www.dw.com/en/germanys-sigmar-gabriel-warns-donald-trump-revoking-iran-deal-could-push-eu-to-russia-and-china/a-40933703

Jimmy Carter Willing to Travel To North Korea for Peace Talks

October 10, 2017

In an intervention likely to irritate Donald Trump, former US president says he is willing to travel to  to discuss a treaty

By Justin McCurry
The Guardian

Jimmy Carter on a visit to Pyongyang in 2010 to try to win the release of a jailed American. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

Jimmy Carter has reportedly said he is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a bid to defuse tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes, and bring “permanent peace” to the Korean peninsula.

In an intervention that is likely to irritate Donald Trump, the 93-year-old former president told a South Korean academic that he was willing to travel to the North Korean capital if it meant preventing war.

“Should former president Carter be able to visit North Korea, he would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and discuss a peace treaty between the United States and the North, and a complete denuclearisation of North Korea,” Park Han-shik, a professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia, told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily newspaper.

Park said Carter told him during a meeting at his home in Georgia at the end of September that he wanted to “contribute toward establishing a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

“He wants to employ his experience visiting North Korea to prevent a second Korean war,” he added.

Carter’s recent comments on North Korea have angered the White House, which last month reportedly asked him not to speak publicly about the crisis amid fears he was undermining Trump, who refuses to entertain any form of rapprochement with the regime.

Media reports said a senior US state department official had visited Carter at his home to pass on Trump’s request.

Carter’s conciliatory stance sits uneasily with attempts by the Trump administration to intensify sanctions against Pyongyang and threats to use military force if the US or its allies are threatened by the regime.

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